The Fijian islands are believed to have been populated over 3,000 years ago by the ‘Lapita people’ from South-Eastern Asia, named after a distinctive type of fine pottery they produced. They remained unknown to European travellers until their accidental discovery in 1643 by the Dutch Indies yacht ‘Heemskercq’, commanded by Abel Tasman. The ship narrowly avoided destruction on the reefs, and this was enough to deter any further explorations for over 130 years.
Captain James Cook was similarly reluctant to risk his ships and so it was only in 1789 when the crew of the HM armed transport ‘Bounty’ mutinied off Tofua that Lt. Bligh and his remaining loyal crew sailed through the Fijian Islands and charted their positions.
Finally, in the 1830’s, Christian missionaries started to arrive on the shores of Fiji. With the exception of one regrettable incident which saw the Rev Thomas Baker and seven Fijian converts killed, Christianity spread and resulted in the practice of cannibalism being eradicated. With the traders had come tools and weapons which chiefs would wage wars on each other, but over time the influence of Christianity quelled these also.
Fiji was to become one of the British colonies in 1874, and with it came diseases that reduced the population by an estimated third. Not long after after the British engineered an influx of labourers from India to work on the sugar plantations, accounting for the large proportion of Indo-Fijian residents today.
Almost one hundred years later Fiji was given back its independence and control was placed in the hands of Prime Minister Mara. It was only when an Indian-dominated party won the election in 1987 that unrest began. A military coup took place to regain native Fijian political control but with it came racial tensions, resulting in many Indo-Fijians leaving. Ten years later a constitution was introduced to ensure non-discrimination within Fiji.
A second military coup took place in 2007 which saw Frank Bainimarama take the role of prime minister. Over time this resulted in suspension from the The Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands Forum until, in 2014, a democratic election peacefully took place and Bainimarama was nominated elected prime minister.
Despite its political history the country shows very little sign of discontent in everyday life. The people are extremely friendly and different races and religions live in relative harmony.